What Marco Rubio Ignored In The Republican Response
The bromide that all you have to do is work hard and you’ll succeed because America is exceptional ignored those who are still fighting for equal opportunity in spite of playing by the rules, as Peter Beinart notes.
In Rubio’s depiction, America is a wondrous place where capitalism allows everyone to get ahead, and the only major external obstacle to upward mobility is an overbearing federal government. “America,” he said, “is exceptional because we believe that every life, at every stage, is precious, and that everyone everywhere has a God-given right to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them.”
Obama serves up this Hallmark-card patriotism too, but he also signals, in ways that many nonwhite, non-Anglo, nonstraight Americans instinctively understand, that America often doesn’t act as if “every life” is equally “precious.” When Obama said early in his speech that “it is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country—the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love,” he was acknowledging that state-sponsored bigotry still prevents millions of gay and lesbian Americans from “getting ahead” because of who they love.